Weekend Briefing No. 76

Welcome to the weekend.  This week Cuba and the US officially resume diplomatic relations, UK’s David Cameron argues for military intervention against ISIL, Westgate Mall in Nairobi, which was attacked by terrorists in 2013, reopened as well as Greek banks, and Donald Trump was… well, being Donald Trump.

This week’s Weekend Briefing was guest edited by my family around our kitchen table at the lake house in Tennessee. A big thanks to them for working on this with me during vacation.




Editing DNA. A new technique called Crispr-Cas9 makes it easy, cheap, and fast to edit genes—any genes, in any living thing, from bacteria to people. Using the three-year-old technique, researchers have already reversed mutations that cause blindness, stopped cancer cells from multiplying, and made cells impervious to the virus that causes AIDS. Agronomists have rendered wheat invulnerable to killer fungi like powdery mildew, hinting at engineered staple crops that can feed a population of 9 billion on an ever-warmer planet. Bioengineers have used Crispr to alter the DNA of yeast so that it consumes plant matter and excretes ethanol, promising an end to reliance on petrochemicals. It brings with it all-new rules for the practice of research in the life sciences. But no one knows what the rules are—or who will be the first to break them. Learn more in WIRED.


Want To Reduce Your Social Anxiety? Just Be Kind. A new study shows that committing small acts of kindness every day can reduce anxiety in social settings. It comes down to a change in focus. You’re normally so focused on you and how you are coming across, and if you are focusing on other people, it’s on how they view or whether they are judging you. With kind acts, it’s taking you out of your own head a little bit and puts your focus on making good things happen in a social context. Learn more in this piece from Fast Company.


The ROI of San Francisco’s Zero-Waste Program. Since its launch, the city’s zero-waste program created policies, financial incentives, and significant outreach to its 850,000 residents and business owners to promote the use of its black-green-and-blue bin system to separate trash from treasure. Unlike trash, items that are composted and recycled create a return for the city. Recyclables are baled and sold to their respective markets: Scrap metal and certain plastics, for example, are often sent to Asia and imported back in the form of new products, and compostables are processed and transformed into nutrient-rich fertilizer, which is sold to local farms. Learn more in TriplePundit.


Drones, robots and GPS on the farm. It was only 100 years ago that farming moved from animal power to combustible engine. Innovations in the last decade are taking farming by storm. The air conditioned cabins of the most recent John Deer tractors more closely resemble the cockpit of a plane – with their multiple screens, real-time analytics and GPS guided autopilot. Most of the field-crop scouting currently done by humans will likely be replaced by drones. High-throughput plant phenotyping (HTPP) is an up-and-coming precision agriculture technology at the intersection of genetics, sensors and robotics. It is used to develop new varieties or “lines” of a crop to improve characteristics such as nutritive content and drought and pest tolerance. Learn more at The Conversation.


Hackers shut down a Jeep Cherokee while driving 70 mph on the Highway. A pair of hackers exploited a security gap in the Jeep Cherokee, which gave them wireless control, via the Internet. Their code is an automaker’s nightmare: software that lets hackers send commands through the Jeep’s entertainment system to its dashboard functions, steering, brakes, and transmission, all from a laptop that may be across the country. Read the firsthand account and watch the video at WIRED.




It’s just a drink. There something we can do to mitigate our disappointment in dating… set lower expectations. Check out this article about dating in the Miami Herald by my sister Katharine Westaway.


Everything I am afraid might happen if I ask new acquaintances to get coffee. This New Yorker article is only funny because it’s true. Number 16 is my favorite. Let’s take a moment to laugh at our neurotic tendencies.


The French Scrabble champion who doesn’t speak French. New Zealander Nigel Richards racks up remarkable victory after reportedly memorizing francophone Scrabble dictionary in nine weeks.




The Weekend Briefing is a selection of this week’s top stories on innovation and society, curated by Kyle Westaway – author of Profit & Purpose and Managing Partner of Westaway Law. I consider it a privilege to be a part of your weekend routine. Thanks.